This analysis is oddly fitting when applied to the American Idols Live! tour (presented ironically enough by--pardon our audible giggle--Pop-Tarts). Take our favorite season-three idol George Huff. He stands very well on his own. But just think of how he can present his range when placed in a duet with, say, Jennifer Hudson on "Nothing Compares 2 U" during the show's Prince medley. (And that's just one example of how the concert will include songs that never appeared in the television competition.) Then contrast that with John Stevens, whose performance of the classic "My Funny Valentine" is emphatically praised by Huff. We think audience members other than women over 40 might disagree with him. But that's beside the point.
American Idols Live! is like Pop-Tarts, giving us a variety pack that includes our favorite flavors (frosted cherry and chocolate chip, just so you know) and also throwing in some others that we may or may not acquire a taste for. Huff and season winner Fantasia Barrino are our cherry and chip, but we are willing to venture out of the comfort zone to check out a little Jon Peter Lewis (often referred to on fans' signs as JPL) or Diana DeGarmo. They certainly sound appealing; we just need evidence that they could become a long-term fave.
We'll admit to liking American Idol, voting for the contestants or knowing who these contestants are, though these things might seem a little lame to today's hipster. But we are of the opinion that the reason for that is because the contest focuses largely on the pop genre, and besides Barry Manilow or perhaps AI's Paula Abdul, who openly confesses to loving or creating schmaltz? The ever-smiling and thoroughly excited Huff, however, says that the live show takes a detour from the candy-coated genre with covers of Black Eyed Peas, the Darkness and that balls-out soulful performance of "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess by Fantasia. "We hit on so many different areas where our style is concerned," Huff says. Even gospel gets a nod with an ensemble finale of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."
It would be way too easy to write off the idols as short-lived popsters. It's harder to deny that some of them really do have vocal talent. As far as writing, who knows what these kids will produce once the covers run dry and they fight for their own record deals? But they must be given credit for making it past the inane Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Abdul--judges who repeatedly call dead-on notes "pitchy" and praise efforts that are lively but clearly off-key. At least in the tour environment, the competition is gone, and Huff says, "It's definitely a team thing now." He and other contestants support one another from backstage and are excited to see the unique characteristics of their fellow performers. "Right now we get to be individuals," he says. "We get to be who we are as opposed to sometimes on the show when you have to compromise certain things. You laugh, you cry, but you don't get angry [because] this is not the show anymore."
So, like Pop-Tarts' variety pack, the American Idols Live! tour is sugary sweet, well-packaged, aimed at moms and 'tweens and not necessarily good for our overall health, but that doesn't mean we won't relish trying every flavor.